Thursday, May 15, 2008

California Supreme Court Rejects Gay Marriage Ban, But No Impact On Religious Doctrines

The California Supreme court today in a 4-3 decision ruled that under the California Constitution, same-sex couples have the same right to marry as do opposite-sex couples. In In re Marriage Cases, (CA Sup. Ct., May 15, 2008), the majority emphasized, however that "affording same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person; no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs. (Cal. Const., art. I, § 4.)"

In reaching its decision on gay marriage, the court held that "sexual orientation [is] a characteristic that we conclude represents — like gender, race, and religion —a constitutionally suspect basis upon which to impose differential treatment...." In response to the argument that sexual orientation should not trigger strict scrutiny because it is not an "immutable" characteristic, the majority said that: "California cases establish that a person’s religion is a suspect classification for equal protection purposes ... and one’s religion, of course, is not immutable but is a matter over which an individual has control." Today's Los Angeles Times reports on the decision.

Here are links to the briefs and recordings of the oral arguments in the case.